Ex-Russian spy worked on Trump Moscow venture: report

Ex-Russian spy worked on Trump Moscow venture: report
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A former business associate of President TrumpDonald John TrumpLondon terror suspect’s children told authorities he complained about Trump: inquiry The Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh Trump to nominate retiring lawmaker as head of trade agency MORE reportedly sought the help of a former Russian spy in arranging financing for a Trump-branded hotel in Moscow during the 2016 presidential campaign.

BuzzFeed News reported Friday that the former associate, Felix Sater, contacted a former GRU officer in 2015 to ask for help financing the proposed development in Moscow.

The former agent reportedly mentioned two banks, GenBank and VTB Bank. Even though the state-owned VTB was on the U.S. Treasury Department's sanctions list, the former agent told Sater he could help secure financing through the bank.

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It's not clear how far those negotiations went, BuzzFeed reported, and VTB has previously denied playing any role in the Trump project in Moscow. It was also not clear how far talks progressed with GenBank. Neither bank responded for the report Friday.

BuzzFeed declined to identify the former GRU agent, citing concerns for his security. 

The news outlet noted that companies are known to work with former intelligence officers in Russia – where even President Vladimir Putin is a former KGB officer – given their key connections.

The former agent also reportedly helped secure invitations for Sater and Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen to attend the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in June 2016. Sater hoped to use the conference to move the Trump hotel deal forward, according to BuzzFeed.

Neither Sater nor Cohen ended up attending the conference, and Cohen reportedly put the Moscow project on hold until after the 2016 Republican National Convention. 

Once Trump won the presidency that November, his real estate business announced that it would no longer seek international deals, and the Moscow proposal fizzled out.

BuzzFeed reported that Sater has been questioned extensively about his interactions with the former GRU agent by special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's team, which is investigation possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

The agent has helped provide the U.S. with key intelligence through Sater in the past, according to BuzzFeed.

Sater, who has acknowledged serving as a source for U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies for years, first met the agent in 1997.

Through Sater, the agent passed along information to the U.S. government, including details about Russian military technology, Osama bin Laden's satellite phone numbers, the locations of al Qaeda training camps and photos of a North Korean official buying nuclear materials, according to BuzzFeed.